Allergies in Children

How do I know if my child is having an allergic reaction to a medication?

A Answers (2)

  • Allergic reactions to medications are relatively common. They occur most often in people who have a family history of allergies to a specific medication. Most allergies to medications are mild and cause skin symptoms, like hives. The hives may start in one place but often spread to cover most of the body. If this happens to a child older than 12 months old, you can give diphenhydramine (Benadryl) by mouth to relieve any itching.
    Anaphylaxis is a sudden and severe allergic reaction that occurs within minutes of a drug allergy. Immediate medical attention is needed for this condition. Without treatment, anaphylaxis can get worse very quickly and even lead to death. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
    • swelling of the face, eyes, or tongue
    • wheezing or cough
    • high-pitched breathing sounds (stridor)
    • difficulty breathing or swallowing
    • stomach pain, vomiting, or diarrhea
    If your child is having a severe allergic reaction, always call 911. Do not wait to see if the reaction is getting worse.
    This answer was created with the help of physicians at South Riding Pediatrics (www.SouthRidingPediatrics.com) and www.HealthyChildren.org
  • A answered

    A true allergic reaction to a medication usually involves hives, wheezing, or difficulty swallowing or breathing (all can be a true emergency). Your child may have a nonallergic reaction or side effect that may include stomachache, diarrhea, or sun sensitivity. Side effects do not necessarily mean that your child should stop taking the medicine, but call your doctor right away and check if you suspect something is wrong. 

    Most reactions are not serious. Since kids are typically taking only one medication at a time for an acute condition (such as an ear infection), we don’t have to worry quite as much as we do for adults, who might be taking several medications at once, which can complicate things. 

    If your child breaks out in hives, for example, call the doctor, who’ll advise you what to do next, such as stop the medicine or switch to something else. Your doctor will note the reaction in your child’s medical record so that the medication won’t be prescribed again. Add this to your home records, too, and tell the pharmacist so the reaction is in your child’s prescription record. The chance of a reaction is worrisome, I know, but the benefits of a needed medication usually far outweigh the possible side effects.

    From The Smart Parent's Guide: Getting Your Kids Through Checkups, Illnesses, and Accidents by Jennifer Trachtenberg.

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This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.
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